American Psycho Explained

Christian Bale in American Psycho explained

 American Psycho needs to be seen and appreciated, like a serpent in a glass cage.

-Richard Corliss

American Psycho is a humorous and blood-curdling psychological thriller. It is a social commentary on the sexual insecurity of men, their shallowness, their obsession with materialism to conceal their apathy. The central character, Patrick Bateman (played impeccably by Christian Bale), flushes out his repressed anger born out of corporate culture by killing people that seems more like a hobby than a necessity.

Bateman has emerged as one of the most iconic characters in film history. It might come as a surprise to you that Christian Bale (the original choice for Patrick Bateman was Leonardo Di Caprio) many warned that it would be career suicide for him to play the lead in a film like this.

Patrick Bateman American Psycho Explained
Patrick Bateman [Title: American Psycho Explained]

There are obviously potential spoilers as it is an attempt to decipher and explain the ending of American Psycho.

Even after 15 years of its release, the much ambiguous ending of ‘American Psycho’ calls for debate amongst fans. As the narration progresses, events in the film get more violent and take gory turns, building up to a shocking conclusion. It leaves the viewers questioning exactly how much of the film was real and how much was fantasy.

Did Patrick really kill anyone? Was it just his imagination; a fantasy of how he wanted to deal with his corporate frustration? Was Paul Allen really dead? We have tried to look at all the possibilities and decipher it for you and come up with the theories that make rational sense of the psychological thriller.

American Psycho Ending Explained

Before we postulate the theories and work on them to possibly conclude which can be more accurate, we have to understand the sequence of events leading up to the climax scene.

1. ATM – Patrick Bateman visits the ATM to withdraw money but ATM pops up the message, “Feed me the stray cat.” Bateman doesn’t hesitate to aim at the kitten but before he could shoot and feed it inside the ATM, a grossed out old woman interrupts him. That old woman becomes Bateman’s first victim that night.

2. Policemen Chase – Policemen chase Patrick in their cars which later turns into a shootout. He kills a couple of policemen and blows up one of the squad cars, which doesn’t seem possible to do with a single pistol. He, himself, is oddly surprised and stares at the gun in disbelief for a few seconds before checking the time and running into the office.

@American Psycho 2000
@American Psycho 2000

3. “Mr Smith” – He enters the random office (not the Pierce & Pierce where he actually works) where security guard addresses him calling,” Mr Smith.” He kills the guard and the janitor so as to not leave any witnesses before he proceeds to his own office.

4. Confession – Bateman enters his office cabin and hides from the helicopter search lights, under his desk. He makes a call to his lawyer, Harold (Stephen Bogaert), to confess his heinous act of brutally murdering the escort girls and one of his colleagues Paul Allen (Jared Leto).

The twist in the tale comes the very next day which is still a bone of contention for 15 years.

1. The dead bodies are no more there in the storage compartment of the flat.

2. A realtor is initially shocked to see Bateman and explains that nobody named Paul Allen actually lived there. She politely asks him to leave the apartment.

3. His lawyer Harold mistakes him for Davis and calls his message as a prank as Bateman is a dork who can’t dare to commit such an act. Harold walks off flap-doodling and rubbishing Bateman’s claim that he killed Paul as he has had dinner with Paul ten days ago in London.

4. Jean (Chloe Sevigny) finds a notebook that seems to be reflections of her boss’ psychosis and we are suddenly left to wonder if it’s all just his fantasy.


Now, we have three possibilities here.

  1. It was all fantasy and Bateman made up everything that reflects his psychosis.
  2. Bateman actually killed everyone except for Paul Allen.
  3. Bateman actually killed everyone and Harold mistook Paul Allen for someone else.

I believe that Patrick Bateman is actually a serial killer and he did kill Paul Allen.

There is no doubt that Patrick Bateman is psychotic. It is clearly indicated in the first act of the film when he asks a bar girl for alcohol and mumbles, “You’re a f**king ugly b*tch, I want to stab you to death and then play around with your blood.”

Patrick Bateman is a self-obsessed, eccentric and affluent guy who works in a financial firm. He and his colleagues lead such a superficial life that they show off their visiting cards to mark their vanity. It is not limited to visiting cards, but also booking a posh restaurant, wardrobe or even as simple a thing as a tie.

They often care nothing about anyone else and that might be the reason why Bateman’s own lawyer didn’t know what his name was, mistaking him for someone else and possibly he does not remember who Paul Allen might be. Why not, it can be true. So, possible Bateman did really axe the head of Paul Allen in such a brutal but poetic fashion.

Detective Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe) drops the case after finding that the protagonist has an alibi. The call made by Bateman from Paul’s landline stating that he flew to London can be an alibi.  Why did he kill Paul Allen?  It is established in the first act that Patrick loathes Paul Allen when they talk about their characteristics of their suits.

The sequence of events described earlier leading to the climax is just a fringe of his imagination. No ATM pops up the message to feed a stray cat. He shrugs in disbelief that his pistol could do so much damage. He is just a sociopath with extreme delusions and a vivid imagination. It is tragic and horrifying that no one believes in his confession. Everyone gets busy with his or her own s**t. No one acknowledges that a dork like him could possibly do cold-blood murder.

American Psycho deals with the superficiality of the society and extreme shallowness of oneself that clouds belief of an individual. That is very much depicted in the last scene when disgruntled Patrick spits out the fact about a society ruined in the vanity of materialism.

Also, Read – American Psycho [2000] Review – Ugly Crab Inside a Shiny Sell

“There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it I have now surpassed. My pain is constant and sharp, and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact, I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one to escape. But even after admitting this, there is no catharsis; my punishment continues to elude me, and I gain no deeper knowledge of myself. No new knowledge can be extracted from my telling. This confession has meant nothing. ”

American Psycho Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, MetaCritic.


Nafees Ahmed

Either overly obsessed or deeply disinterested. A high functioning procrastinator who passionately writes on films. Juggling with passion, dreams, heartaches, career, survival and pissing on life.